A Voice in the
"What good to Me are your many sacrifices, says Jehovah? I am sated with burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fattened cattle, and the blood of bulls; nor do I delight in the blood of lambs and he goats. When you come to see My face, who has required this at your hand, to trample My courts? Do not add to bringing vain sacrifice; its incense is an abomination to Me. I cannot endure the new moon and sabbath, the going to meeting, and the evil assembly. My soul hates your new moons and your appointed feasts. They are a burden to Me. I am weary of bearing them. And when you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you. Yea, when you multiply prayer, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. (Is1:11-15)
This month's article will be a little different from usual, in that, we will start with responses made to a couple of e-mail queries, and then summarize at the end.
READER COMMENT: I am enjoying your Q/A on prayer and thought it might be an appropriate time to ask about praise. I have shared with you my past as a former Charismatic. Praise, back then, consisted of putting on a praise and worship cd and dancing and singing till I got giddy and silly. It was an emotional high. I really thought I was praising the Lord that way. People have distorted praise just as badly as they have prayer.
READER QUESTION: I would appreciate a few Biblically based comments on this question. I attended a new church in the area that I live. In telling someone else about the service, I mentioned that the teaching was very good. They then replied to me, The teaching is not so important because that is for you, but how was the worship, because that is for the Lord.
What about, "Those who worship Him will worship Him in spirit and in truth, etc.??" Hasn't worship been "worshipped" out of Scriptural context? What about preaching the truth as it is that that will se you free. How can we say that just the singing part of the service is where the Lord "is at"? Where do we go with all the emphasis on worship these days - the "gift of worship", etc.
ANSWERS: To disobedient Israel God says, "I hate, I despise your feast days [their worship]; and I will not delight in your solemn assemblies. Though you offer me burnt offerings...I will not be pleased. Take away from Me the noise of your songs; and I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments." (Amos5:21-23)
Why did God react this way? "..you have trampled on the poor...distressing the just, taking of a bribe.." (vs11-12) If we see from James a definition of "pure religion" as being "to visit orphans and widows in their afflictions, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." (Jas1:27) In other words...faith into action. (Jas ch2)
God said to Israel, "Seek Me, and live. Seek Jehovah, and live...seek good and not evil...hate evil, and love good, and establish justice.." (Amos5:4,6,14-15)
Because of Israel's rebellion God said "I will not be pleased with a food offering from you." (Mal1:10)
I don't expect we need to give a lot of references. Even a cursory reading in the O.T. prophets will show God pleading with Israel to "turn from your evil ways..." (Ez33:11) Their continual malaise was their idolatry. We never see God pleading with them to "worship Him" more. But rather to "love Jehovah your God.." (Josh22:5, 23:11) Daniel prays concerning those that "love Him and...keep His commandments" (Dan9:4) as God had commanded to "love Jehovah and..walk in His ways.." (De19:9)
The worship songs always say variations of things like "we love You, Jesus". Well, this is what Jesus said: "if you love Me, keep My commandments". (Jn14:15) And John reminds the same thing, "And this is love, that we should walk according to His commandments." (2Jn6)
For the relatively few places (Eph5:19, Col3:16) that speak of singing, there is an entire New Testament that teaches doctrine on "how to live" righteously in this evil world. (Tit2:12) What is the context of the "joy of salvation"? A "clean heart". (Ps51:12,10)
Paul's exhortation to Timothy, instructing him how to conduct the meetings, he is charged to "attend to reading, to exhortation, to teaching...give attention to the doctrine...continue in them.." (1Ti4:13-16) Notice, nothing is said about "worship".
If our love for Christ is judged by how we keep His commandments...how do we go about knowing -what- His commandments are? The "approved...workman" is one who is diligent in God's Word. (2Tim2:15)
Worship is meaningless, if the people are being disobedient. Saul tried this argument. He essentially says that he disobeyed God, by not utterly destroying everything pertaining to Amalek "..[in order] to sacrifice to Jehovah your God.." (1Sam15:21) And Samuel responds, "Does Jehovah delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of Jehovah? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice! To give attention is better than the fat of rams." (vs22) The way to know His will, is to study His Word. (Ps119:105)
What is worship? "The sacrifices [worship] of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise" (Ps51:17)
The first person mentions "worship CDs". There are also "worship tapes" And when it's done in a "church" it is a -live- "worship band". It is fitting to repeat here something the people on the E-mailing list have already seen in a recent weekly "Portion".
David decides it's finally time to bring God's Ark to Jerusalem, after years of it residing in a private home after it had been returned by the Philistines prior to Saul's reign. He organizes quite a large celebration. A brand new ox-cart is built for the occasion, and a "worship band" (if you will) is assembled. The instruments of this 'band'... transmogrify them a few thousand years to today, you would have had a couple kinds of guitars and lots of percussion. And instruments that would have sounded not at all unlike a saxophone. (2Sam6:5)
The part of this account that we always remember is how the oxen stumbled and almost upset the Ark, and Uzzah was killed on the spot, from God's anger, for reaching out and touching the Ark. The part we don't notice is how, when David figured out the error and next time has the Ark (properly) 'carried', he has also modified the instruments. This time it was the "sound of the ram's horn." (vs15)
Now, I did a search of the Pentateuch to see if any of the listed instruments of David's 'worship band' could be found in connection with instructions for worship. They are not to be found. But guess what... there are -many- mentions of "ram's horns" for all sorts of worship occasions.
While the account doesn't say that God was displeased with David's 'worship band', we see how when David seeks "God's methods" regarding "God's things", that he also deletes the 'worship band'. Oh yes, David was still "dancing". But you can be sure it was not the -sensuous- dancing that people bring from their dance floors today and claim is in worship to God. "..leaping and dancing" (vs16) might just as easily be rendered "..nimbly whirling and jumping.." Think of Venus Williams winning at Wimbledon, that last point, and she erupts into jubilation, jumping, smiling, screaming, hardly able to contain herself. David, making a "joyful noise unto the Lord". (Ps100:1)
So, what about the "praise vs preaching" argument? Well, this came about from the "christian hippy" movement of the 60s and 70s. Loathing of Biblical preaching was concurrent with rebellion against authority. Bible studies did not seek to know "thus says the Lord" but "what do you think it means? ...what does it mean, to you?" So then, naturally, when a lot of 'paraphrases' of Scripture came out, people were not forced to know "thus says the Lord". They could feel "comfortable" -discussing- their -views- "about" Scripture, rather than listening to the Lord. And yet, with these 'books' they called "Bible", they could delude themselves into thinking they were having "Bible studies".
From there, it went to that "little country church on the edge of town" that's finally seeing the light, where everybody is accepted and received just -as-they-are- with "no coats and ties", and the "preacher don't talk about religion [preaching the Word] no more..." but he's "talkin' 'bout revival and the need for luuuuv" they've "..just come to PRAISE THE LORD!" [Ed: words of one of the songs by the group 'Love Song' back then]
Well, as the "revival fires" have swept around the world, now the preachers are more blatant in their rejection of the Scriptures. I've heard that when so much "worship" took up the whole time, he would close the service by saying something like, "We won't have Scripture tonight, we've had -the-spirit-".
Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would "take of [Jesus]" (Jn16:15) and give it. What/Who is Jesus? He is the "Word". (Jn1:1, Heb4:12) Jesus is the "Bread of Life" (Jn6:48), something of which the prophet said, "Your words were found and I ate them; and Your Word was to me the -JOY- and -GLADNESS- of my heart. For I am called by Your name, O Jehovah, God of hosts." (Jer15:16)
When these groups say the "spirit" is usurping the Word, theirs is a -different- "spirit"! The [Holy] Spirit does not do what -their- 'spirits' do.
Again, Paul exhorts, "Until I come, attend to reading, to exhortation, to teaching...hold on to yourself and to the doctrine.." (1Tm4:13,16) When the service was going on into the wee hours of the morning where Eutychus fell out the window...they were not "spirit-filled" and "worshiping". Paul was "reasoning". (Acts20:9) He was talking, teaching, preaching.
So, when we do sing, what is the subject matter about which we sing? Giving "thanks" to Jehovah "because His mercy endures forever". (1Ch16:34, Ps106:1, Ps136, etc) "Teaching and admonishing one another...speaking to yourselves" (Col3:1, Eph5:19) How do we teach and admonish with song? Charismania sings, "Fill me Jesus, fill me now...Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, etc" Is that it? Mantras?
At the website "Songbook" the first song on the list 'happens' to be what it is because it is there 'alphabetically'. But I was happy to see how the Lord worked it out, to open the collection with, "A Charge to Keep I Have..A God to glorify. Who gave His Son my soul to save and fit it for the sky 2) To serve the present age, my calling to fulfill O may it all my pow'rs engage to do my Master's will! 3) Arm me with jealous care, as in Thy sight to live; And O Thy servant, Lord, prepare a strict account to give! 4) Help me to watch and pray, and on Thyself rely; And let me ne'er my trust betray, but press to realms on high."
Rather than "fill me, Jesus" and make -me- 'feel' good ... "how can I be more effective in my service to You, my Lord and my God!" How can I "having done all, to stand" (Eph6:13) Considering the "blessed hope" (Tit2:13) I am awaiting, how can I better "purify [myself], even as He is pure." (1Jn3:3)
When God despises the "profane" (Lev10:10,22:2, Eze23:39) worship of the "vain sacrifice" (Is1:13) as it exists, what does He exhort? "Wash yourselves, purify yourselves. Put away the evil of your doings from My sight; stop doing evil. Learn to do good, seek justice, straighten the oppressor, judge the orphan, strive for the widow. Come now and let us reason together, says Jehovah: Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as the crimson, they shall be like wool." (Is1:16-18) "Pure religion and undefiled before God..is this..to keep oneself unspotted from the world." (Jas1:27)
How does one "..cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your Word." (Ps119:9)